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Nimsgern comes out on top of Prediction Board

February 07, 2020 by Brett LaBore

In another fun year of The Lakeland Times Football Prediction Board, Justin Nimsgern came out with the unexpected win.
For most of the season, Darcy Rich of Little Brown Jug led the way. She had the lead as late as Dec. 13, before Nimsgern of Nimsgern Funeral and Cremation Services came away with the victory.
“First I would like to thank The Lakeland Times for putting this together and keeping it going for so many years,” Nimsgern said. “I think I just got lucky in the last few weeks and I’m still a little surprised.”
But would he consider himself an expert now that he’s won? Not exactly.
“There is no way that I consider myself an expert,” Nimsgern said. “Teams in the NFL are so evenly talented that any team can win on Sunday.”
Nimsgern’s odds might be slim, but he would come back to do it again next year.
“I’m not sure how many times people were able to repeat, but I would say it’s probably similar odds to winning the lottery,” he said.
Coming in second place with 169 wins was Rich. She had the lead for pretty much the entire season, but lost by just two games to Nimsgern. 
“I mean, it was good,” Rich said. “I’ve never done this before, so this was all my predictions. It keeps you interested.”
One person who had a chance at third place was the always competitive Brian Lenz of Lenz Truck Center. Both Lenz and Rich were tied with 168 wins heading into Super Bowl week. Lenz cost himself a chance at a tie for second place by picking the Green Bay Packers of all teams.
“Picking the Packers was a marketing tool to gauge how many people are looking at the weekly picks,” Lenz said. “I got a lot of feedback, and I know a lot of people review the pics weekly as the entire Lakeland readership knows that Kurt Veldhuizen was terrible at predicting games.”
Now, you would think that Lenz would be happy with a top three finish overall, but not for this gamer.
“There really isn’t such a thing as third place,” Lenz said. “As Ricky Bobbie once said, ‘If you ain’t first, you’re last.’”
Coming in as last year’s champion, Lenz is disappointed he couldn’t come through again. He really did try everything in his power to win.
“I’m disappointed, but not for lack of effort,” he said. “I tried everything to win … I fired my entire Prediction Scouting Team, tried hacking the computers of Nimsgern Funeral Home in order to see Justin’s picks, and even resorted to bribery on the final week of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to get it done. Since the NFL is clearly rigged, I thought I’d try to rig the Lakeland Prediction Board.”
Maybe next year Lenz will finish higher.
Coming in at fourth place overall was Nicole Hansen of Minocqua Pest Control. In contrast to Lenz, she was very happy to finish in fourth with 165 wins.
“I am thrilled with fourth place,” she said. “I am definitely not a football expert, so the fact that I didn’t place last is good enough for me.”
Heading into Super Bowl week, Hansen and Shane Schwingle were tied. Hansen’s pick of Kansas City paid off to get the fourth place by herself. A lot went into her predictions week after week.
“Each week, my employees and I would talk about the previous week’s results and my upcoming picks,” she said. “We had fun comparing each other’s picks and looked forward to the time spent together on something completely unrelated to our work duties.”
Because of his pick of San Francisco, Schwingle of Pukall Lumber finished tied for fifth with none other than Brian Jopek, The Lakeland Times news director.
“That’s not bad, better than I thought I would do,” Schwingle said.
Even though the picks went to his name, it was a total team effort with Schwingle.
“It was a Pukall team effort. I had a bunch of other Pukall employees help,” he said.
Did that strategy work out for him?
“I got tied for fifth, so not the best,” Schwingle said.
But what does Jopek think of his fifth place finish?
“I think it’s pretty inexcusable and I might need a new coach and general manager,” he said. “This is, I think, the fourth time I’ve participated and the idea is to win. I think I’m at a crossroads.”
One of his things I noticed throughout the season was his love of his Chicago Bears. He picked them every week just because they were his favorite team. Even I know not to pick with your heart every week.
“They’re my team, always have been,” Jopek said. “There will be times I’ll pick with my heart.”
But his bias toward Kansas City paid off when Jopek picked them to win the Super Bowl, causing him to tie for fifth with Schwingle who picked San Francisco.
“Kansas City is my ‘second team’ behind Chicago; I lived in southeast Kansas for nearly 16 years and actually made it to some games at Arrowhead Stadium in the 90s,” Jopek said.
And then there was me. I finished in seventh place with 161 wins, just sneaking by Rick Bender of Dave and Dean’s Quality Tire. My pick of Kansas City paid off.
As the sports reporter at The Times, I felt it was my responsibility to come out here with a better showing, a chance to prove that I can talk the talk.
I was upset with my overall result. I think my ego got the best of me and I outsmarted myself several times. Just when you think you know everything, the opposite happens.
For examples, I picked the Jaguars every week for about five weeks straight, thinking for sure they’d win at some point. They went 0-5. Jacksonville … I’m never picking you again.
Unlike Jopek, I did not let my bias get in the way. I successfully picked against my Packers twice — and since they only lost four games, that percentage was pretty good.
Since I also review movies for the paper, I might just stick to that. Moving forward my strategy will be to watch movies and pick teams who have the better uniform.
Tied for eighth place was Bender with 160 wins. He kept his strategy simple.
“I was doing a lot of picking where I picked what I thought,” he said. “Any toss up game I went with the home team.”
Better luck next year.
Then there was such a thing as The Mystic. Late in the season it was revealed The Mystic was none other than Minocqua Police chief Dave Jaeger. He finished tied with Bender with 160 wins.
“That is pretty much where I expected to finish — I was just glad it wasn’t last place,” Jaeger said.
Chief Jaeger’s identity was kept secret for the season as he found out how much fun it can be to pick teams.
“I was hesitant at first because of not following teams other than the Packers; but as I got into it, I found it to be pretty fun,” he said. “And besides, it was for a good cause as all the money went to a nonprofit of the winner’s choice.”
Coming up in last place was Kurt Veldhuizen of RBC Wealth Management with 149 wins, 11 wins behind Chief Jaeger and Bender.
“It is very humbling,” Veldhuizen said. “Not only did I finish in last place, I was trounced by every other participant.”
Even though Veldhuizen had a last place finish, it did have a fun affect on his business.
“My business associates, clients, friends, and neighbors have had many helpful comments, and advice along the way,” he said.
But it wasn’t a total loss. The last place finish opened his eyes up to a certain experience.
“Being in last place has been very humbling, but at least now I know what it’s like to be a Minnesota Vikings fan,” Veldhuizen said.
Though the prediction board has been fun, the most important thing is the money raised to the charity of a winner’s choice. It’s a win-win for everybody.
Better luck next year everyone!
Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].

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